Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Haredim have been in the news lately, assembling at the Wailing Wall to scream and boo at observant female Jews, and (during the same week) violently protesting the army draft in groups that numbered in the thousands. Fill the Void, a sensitive domestic drama set in modern-day (though not modern-custom) Tel Aviv, demonstrates that there are gradations of severity even in the most extreme subcultures. At Purim time, a rabbi’s family suffers catastrophe when their oldest daughter dies in childbirth, leaving behind an infant and a lost widower, Yohai (Yiftach Klein). Watching silently from the soft-focus periphery is Shira (Hadas Yaron), the 18-year-old younger sister—a character to whom all eyes, mostly male, turn when a potential solution arises.
Will she or won’t she agree to a marriage? A more strident and perhaps easier movie would have Shira suddenly become a fierce resister, but writer-director Rama Burshtein (herself Haredi) captures a far more interesting complexity: The community’s patriarchal traditions are comforting to this young girl, even as she strains with blooming independence, the awkward pangs of singledom and a touch of ego. Fill the Void captures this exquisite performance in quiet moments, the character isolated in thought. The film isn’t exactly rousing in its conclusion, but it’s always respectful: a serious ethical inquiry into matters of women’s choice, both imposed and seized upon. Check it out.
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